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A spotlight on outstanding women artists and their works in the Royal Collection

Mary Beale (1632-97)

A leather-worker(?) 1632-97

RCIN 913375

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Mary Beale is now recognised as the most prolific female artist in seventeenth century England. Many of her paintings were previously wrongly attributed to her male peers, however – including Peter Lely, the era’s leading portraitist, from whom Beale received encouragement.

Beale worked in collaboration with her husband Charles to develop and maintain a thriving professional career. Charles ran her studio, and kept important records documenting both Beale’s commissions and technical experiments.

The assured handling of red chalk here, particularly evident in the subtle light falling across the man’s hair and temple, demonstrates Beale’s skill. Her portraits sensitively capture the humanity and character of her sitters.